Mark Darr to Resign; Says He'll Leave Office Feb. 1

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Friday, Jan. 10, 2014 10:40 pm  

Arkansas Lt. Gov. Mark Darr

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Lt. Gov. Mark Darr said Friday he would leave office Feb. 1, giving in to pressure from Democrats and fellow Republicans who said his impeachment was inevitable over ethics violations tied to his campaign and office spending.

Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe and Republican members of the state's congressional delegation had begun calling for Darr to resign on Dec. 31, a day after he agreed to pay $11,000 fines imposed by the state Ethics Commission for 11 separate violations, including making personal use of more than $30,000 of his campaign funds. Darr insisted that those violations, as well as improper spending a separate agency found on his state credit card, were unintentional, and had vowed to stay in office.

In a statement released by his office Friday evening, Darr said, "Politics can be a toxic business. I will no longer subject my family to its hard lessons." He had submitted his resignation to House Speaker Davy Carter and Senate President Michael Lamoureux.

Republican leaders in the Legislature expressed relief at Darr's decision. His refusal to leave office had threatened to overshadow GOP efforts in November to build on recent electoral gains, including the party's takeover of the state Legislature in the 2012 election.

"Everyone recognized (impeachment) would be a difficult thing to do and embarrassing for the state," said House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot. "Nobody wanted to do that, but I think people were prepared to do that. To that end, I think this is the best ending that was possible in this circumstance."

Just three days before Darr announced his resignation, the former pizza shop owner had insisted there was no outcry for him to leave.

"It would be an immediate fix to tuck tail and run but I would regret it for years to come," Darr said Tuesday.

In addition to paying the Ethics Commission fines, Darr had promised to reimburse the state for $3,500 in improper spending that the Office of Legislative Audit had found.

With Darr refusing to leave, legislative leaders had begun researching impeachment, a process Arkansas lawmakers haven't attempted since 1871. House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, said Darr's impeachment was inevitable if the lieutenant governor didn't quit.

Lamoureux, R-Russellville, called Darr's resignation sad but said he believed the lieutenant governor made the right decision.

"He spared a lot of people time and expense and probably some partisan fighting," Lamoureux said.

Darr was elected in 2010 as part of a Republican sweep into state and congressional offices. In 2013, he announced a run for Congress, but he dropped out of the race in August amid questions about his spending.



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